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Final Workshop - EMPHASIS on the International Year of Plant Health

After 4 years of investigations, the European project EMPHASIS, comprising 22 partners from 10 countries, has released its scientific results during the final workshop “EMPHASIS on the International Year of Plant Health” held on 12 February 2019 in Torino (Italy).

The event was organized by the project coordinator Agroinnova, the Center of Competence for the Innovation in the agro-environmental field of University of Torino, directed by Maria Lodovica Gullino.

Attendants were warmly welcomed by the rector of the University of Torino, Prof. Gianmaria Ajani. The project coordinator, Maria Lodovica Gullino from Agroinnova, set the context by presenting the objectives and main results achieved during the project period.

The overall goal of EMPHASIS, financed under the Horizon 2020 programme, was to ensure the safeness of the food chain and to protect biodiversity through the development of effective practical solutions and mechanisms that can prevent the spread of epidemics and protect the European agricultural and forest system. EMPHASIS addressed a wide spectrum of pathogens, pests and weeds of agricultural crops and forest, paying attention to invasive and alien species that reach the UE from other continents as a consequence of the exchange of goods due to globalization.

Mr Marios Markakis, from DG RTD, European Commission, elaborated on the EU policy framework for a more sustainable future. FOOD 2030 is the EU R&I policy framework that strives to future-proof nutrition and food systems. The EC proposal for the next R&I framework programme, Horizon Europe, is to allocate € 10 billion for the “Food and Natural resource” cluster to tackle the food and nutritional security challenge. During his talk, Mr Markakis highlighted that the new plant health law (Regulation (EU) 2016/2031) on protective measures against pests of plants is going to be applicable from December 2019 to better protect EU plant health, focusing on proactive actions in order to comply with International Plant Protection Convention (IPP).

Glyn Jones, from Fera Science Ltd (UK), provided an insights into work package 1 “Plant Health Challenges and Evaluation” results. This WP, coordinated by Imperial College, considered the challenges of assessing the potential impacts of a large complex project across some key themes for potential impact – efficiency, efficacy, ease of uptake and sustainability.  Tools were developed that enabled the evaluation and comparison of the innovations developed as well as allowing comparison with the existing practice.  It showed how the innovations could be considered by different stakeholders and thus highlight potential barriers.  Other tools developed included one that showed how the EMPHASIS innovations had developed across Technology Readiness levels and what remained to be completed before market as well as a template on the creation of business plans.  They form the basis for assessing, monitoring and evaluating future complex multi-actor projects.

Work package 2 “Practical solutions for surveillance and monitoring” coordinated by Jenny Tomlinson at Fera Science Ltd developed and validated 28 LAMP assays allowing rapid in field diagnostics  of a range of damaging fungal pathogens and also a suite of assays which allow the rapid sub-typing of Xylella fastidiosa, an emerging bacterial pathogen currently threatening to spread across Europe.  To compliment these assays, changes were made to the user interface of the Optisense Genie II LAMP instrument, improving the automated results calling and implementing different interfaces and access for expert vs non-specialist users. The use of sentinel plants for early detection of pathogens was successfully demonstrated in wheat (Plots in UK, Hungary, France and Italy for the detection of Puccinia graminis tritici.) and also for the detection of pathogens in intensively grown basil. Finally Metabarcoding, a method using high throughput sequencing technology,  was developed allowing the monitoring of spore trap samples for any fungal pathogens (using the Illumina MiSeq) and for the monitoring of insect traps for invasive insects (Using the Oxford Nanopore MinION). These tools are now being implemented and will allow for improved surveillance and monitoring for invasive plant pests and pathogens.  

Work package 3 “Practical solutions for protection, management and eradications”, coordinated by University of Lleida (Catalonia, Spain) did research on 13 different crop/pest systems including several insect pests, plant pathogenic fungi, and weeds in agricultural crops, forestry and amenity areas. New Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs were built or some others already existing were improved. IPM programmes were successfully developed thanks to the complementary expertise of EMPHASIS consortium members on different control methods including biological control with macro- and microorganisms, host plant resistance, physical and cultural practices, pheromones for mating disruption, and selective chemicals. Also the close cooperation with WP4, aimed to on-farm validated results issued from WP3, will facilitate product development. However, more favourable regulations for registering non-chemical products for IPM in EU are needed, as concluded in a posterior round table, and already stated by an opinion document issued from Emphasis.

The goal of work package 4 “Open-ended multi-actor activities” coordinated by Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands) is to increase impact of the developed innovations. To achieve that the practical solutions developed in work package 3 should be relevant and responsive for end-users. Therefore the solutions were fine-tuned in close cooperation with end-users and other stakeholders in large scale field tests. These field tests were also the places were open days and trainings were organized to show other end users the potential of the innovations. The field trials were done in vegetable crops, orchard, forestry, arable crops and public areas. In one case over 1000 people were reached for training, others organized workshops in several countries to show how to work with the practical solutions, and others worked with a group of growers and did tests at more than 80 hectares. To secure the introduction of some products that were developed within Emphasis, companies were training and supported to setup business plans. This showed the economic potential of the products and helped the companies to get there products into the market to reach as much end-users.

Laura Vivani, from Moverim (Belgium), provided an overview of the dissemination and communication activities carried out during the project under the work package 5 “Dissemination and Training”. EMPHASIS is a participatory research project, involving end-users in setting research objectives, gathering and processing data and interpreting results, in line with the multi-actor approach promoted by the European commission. Different stakeholders have been engaged using traditional and innovative communication tools and new outreach formats, such as stage shows in theatre. All these activities have generated scientific publications, posters, articles and press releases on the public press, newsletters, opinion papers, trainings as well as an impressive number of views on social media. The project is present in a total of 5 social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Slideshare) building a growing community focused on plant health and invasive alien species topics. The accounts achieved more than 2,800 followers and 1,5 million views over the course of 4 years. These channels have enabled the project to reach its objectives, by increasing the participation of stakeholders, including farmers and foresters, in its activities. As an example, one activity was the survey addressed to end-users launched during the second year of the project, that ended up obtaining over 1,000 answers coming from 39 countries. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without the use of these tools. To promote uptake of innovative solutions a contest-like activity (Call for early adopters) was launched for those who want to pioneer solutions developed by the project offered by 3 SMEs: Agrobio, Agri New Tech and Optisense. A total of 67 end-users applied. Seven beneficiaries from Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece and Belgium were selected.

After the lunch break, stakeholders representatives were brought together in a round table to discuss on how successfully embrace innovative technologies developed by EU projects in agriculture. The discussion outlined that this multi-actor approach project succeeded in co-create solutions for IPM ready to be applied in practice and address real needs. However, the implementation of the innovations developed by multi-actor approach projects is often a challenge for the Operational Groups funded by rural development programmes at local level. The database of practice abstracts created by EIP-AGRI and the open access of research results facilitate the exchange of knowledge and support the exploitation of research results.

Finally, Ralf Lopian from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, opened the celebration for the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Recently the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2020 as year to recognize and protect plant health. The year is expected to increase awareness among the public and policy makers of the importance of healthy plants and the necessity to protect them in order to enhance food security, protect the environment and biodiversity and boost economic development. Mr Lopian called every National Plant Protection Organism (NPPO) to set up a national IYPH Steering Committee to identify and reach the media channels and the target audience at national level. National programmes should be developed and implemented in close cooperation with professional and academic stakeholders.

The project leader Maria Lodovica Gullino concluded the day thanking everyone for their presence and collaboration, launching new ideas for future activities in the context of the International Year of Plant Health.


You can find the speaker presentations below:


- Welcome and introduction. The EMPHASIS project -  M. L. Gullino, AGROINNOVA, download here


- R&I Towards a more sustainable future - M. Markakis, European Commission, DG RTD,  download here


- Plant Health Challenges and Evaluation in EMPHASIS - G. Jones, FERA Science Ltd, download here


- Practical solutions for surveillance and monitoring - J. Tomlison, FERA Science Ltd, dowload here


-  EMPHASIS practical solutions for protection, management and eradication - R. Albajes, Univesidad de Lleida, download here


- On farm validation and product development in Emphasis - P. F. de Jong, DLO,  download here


- Awarness raising: EMPHASIS dissemination and communication - L. Vivani, MOVERIM, download here


- The International Year of Plant Health 2020 - R. Lopian, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, download here


- Concluding remarks - M.L. Gullino, AGROINNOVA, Italy, download here

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Final Workshop - EMPHASIS on the International Year of Plant Health

The event was organized by the project coordinator Agroinnova, the Center of Competence for the Innovation in the agro-environmental field of University of Torino, directed by Maria Lodovica Gullino.




EMPHASIS survey of potential end-users extended

This short survey aims to learn more about how the practical solutions for pest surveillance, control and eradication developed under the EMPHASIS project address the needs of potential end-users.


EMPHASIS survey of end-users: deadline extended till 19 February 2019




This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020
research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 634179.